Agriculture; plantations; other rural sectors

An estimated 1.1 billion people are engaged in agriculture. This includes roughly 300-500 million waged workers, many of whom depend on incomes from jobs in the plantation sector. In addition, large numbers of casual and temporary workers are engaged by small and large growers. Unpaid family members carry out agricultural work as unrecognized farm labour or to support small-scale family farming. Segments of the rural poor engage in agriculture for subsistence.

Agriculture accounted for 31 per cent of global employment in 2013, down from 45 per cent in 1991. While the numbers working in agriculture are expected to continue to decline over time, the sheer scale of the working poor in the sector, and the inherently dangerous and uncertain nature of agricultural work require that the world focus on addressing decent work deficits at all levels. Particularly in developing countries, there are major constraints that need urgent attention, including the largely unrecognized role of women in agriculture, inadequate skills, exclusion of agricultural workers from national labour laws, low wages, dangerous working conditions, and a high incidence of child and forced labour.

Employment in agriculture, by region as share of total employment
Region1991 2013% Change
World44.5 31.3-29.7
Development Economies & EU 6.93.6-47.8
Central & SE Europe (non-EU) & CIS28.817.7-38.5
East Asia56.830.3-46.7
South-East Asia & the Pacific58.9 39.333.3
South Asia62.146.3-25.4
Latin America & the Caribbean24.714.8-40.1
Middle East24.514.3-41.6
North Africa34.928.0-19.8
Sub-Saharan Africa65.962.0-5.9

Source: ILO, “Key indicators of the labour market” Geneva, 2014

Under Outcome 5 of its Programme and Budget 2016-17, the ILO will support constituents, in line with country needs, at national sectoral and local levels in their actions to include decent work principles and practices in policies, strategies and programmes for agricultural and rural development. Its aim will be for improved livelihoods and food security, with an emphasis on extending social protection and rights at work and giving a voice to and improving the organization, working conditions, productivity and incomes of waged workers, including those on plantations, as well as of smallholders, small businesses and cooperatives.